Hornets are the most aggressive stinging insects commonly found in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. Unlike most other stinging insects, who usually will leave you alone if you don't bother them, hornets will readily attack in large numbers, many times even if you're a distance away that would be safe for other stinging insects.
Hornets are also unpredictable. You can walk past the same hornets' nest every day for weeks and they won't bother you; and then one day, for no apparent reason, they'll suddenly take offense at your presence and attack. Because they attack in great numbers and can sting repeatedly, even individuals who aren't especially sensitive to insect stings may require medical care after a hornet attack.
Part of the reason why hornets are so dangerous is because they actually assign lookouts to keep an eye on things. These hornets are known as "sentries" and can be seen flying around near the entrance hole to the nest, usually in groups of two or three. If they see something that they don't like, they signal for reinforcements from inside the nest; and through some mechanism that we don't fully understand, are able to communicate the exact direction and distance to what they believe to be the threat.
This sentry system may also explain why hornets that never bothered you before may decide one day that you're a threat. It may just be that some hornets are more easily alarmed than others; and when they're on duty, the chance of an attack is greater.
Hornets are not considered essential pollinators, but they do some pollinating when they're foraging for nectar. They also prey on other insects, including some species that are themselves pests. So if you notice a hornets' nest off in the woods somewhere on your land where no one ever goes, anyway, you may decide to just leave them bee. Even being as aggressive as they are, hornets only attack when they believe someone is threatening their nest. If the nest is in a place where no one is going to encounter it, anyway, then probably you should just leave it alone.
Hornets build nests made of paper that they manufacture themselves. The inner nest has a comb-like structure in which hornets lay eggs, but unlike bees, they do not produce wax or honey. The outside of the nest is constructed of multiple layers of paper that can range in diameter from a few inches to more than a foot. The entry hole is usually near the bottom, slightly off center from the tip.
Unlike honey bees and yellow jackets, hornets usually build their nests in the open air rather than in protected voids. The nests are usually suspended from tree branches, overhead wires, porch ceilings, or soffits and overhangs of houses; but they can also be glued to vertical surfaces like walls of buildings, tree trunks, and even glass windows.
Depending on the time of day, we may or may not immediately remove a hornets' nest. During some times of the day only a few hornets are in the nest, and it may be more effective to leave the nest in place for a few hours after treatment to allow the rest of the hornets to return. Other times, our technicians are confident that all are the vast majority of the hornets have been killed and will remove the nest immediately.
If there's any pest control job that's not a good choice for do-it-yourselfers, that would be hornet control. Our technicians are pretty macho, but even they suit up in protective gear when doing a hornet removal job. The reason is simple: With hornets, even if you get the insecticide inside the nest on the first try, most likely they're still going to attack. And if you don't get it up in there on the first try, then they're sure to attack.
That's one of the reasons why we do not recommend DIY solutions like aerosol "wasp freeze" products. Unless you have perfect aim and you get the aerosol stream in that little hole on the first try, during a time when the whole colony is in the nest kicking back, there's a very good chance that you're going to be attacked.
In addition, hornets often build their nests in locations that are hard to get to either because they're very high or because they're in the midst of a lot of tree branches or shrubbery. Our technicians have protective gear that allows them to get close to the nest without getting stung, along with ladders, harnesses, and other equipment to get to nests that are up high. If you don't have that sort of equipment, the you really should leave hornet control to the professionals.
Rid-A-Critter provides hornet control and hornets' nest removal in Birmingham, Anniston, Bessemer, Hoover, Moody, and in other nearby towns and cities in our Alabama service area. Please contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Here are some pictures of hornet control work that we've come across in and around the Birmingham area.
European hornets' nest
Close-up of hornets nest showing sentries
Hornets nest with sentries on duty by entry hole
European Hornets Nest
Chris S. Removing a Hornets' Nest from a House
Hornets nest removal job in Birmingham
Hornets nest on an exterior light in Birmmingham
European hornet nest in early stage contruction
Close-up of a hornets nest hole
Inside of hornets nest after it was treated